As part of the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) conference in 2017, our own Talley Baratka presented “Did You Hear? Make Sure Employees Get the Right Message,” sharing her learnings about the essentials of employee communications. Here, Talley shares some of the points that hit home for attendees.
First, tell us a little about why this is important to you, Talley.
I work to marry purpose with profit. When you consider your employees’ individual needs and use targeted communications to reach them, you have that extra special ingredient needed to create highly engaged employees. At Rhudy & Co. we believe in making work better. And we partner with corporate and nonprofit leaders who want to do just that. They know that caring for their employees is beneficial for the employee and the organization. Because cared for employees care for our organizations’ customers and clients.
Why is it important to the organizations you work with?
The truth is we wouldn’t be in business without our customers. And we wouldn’t be able to take care of our customers without our employees. While it can be overwhelming and challenging to prioritize this work of getting the right message to your employees… and taking the time to make sure they are engaged, hearing your message…and then acting upon it. It is a core priority.
Once an organization decides to prioritize employee communication, where do they start?
At Rhudy & Co., this is our specialty. We help organizations with strategies that work in connecting and engaging employees. Great communications do not have to be expensive. It is about slowing down and being deliberate and thoughtful.
The first step is to look at the audience. Who are your employees? Understanding the group of people you are trying to reach is the primary goal of planning good communication. It drives what you say or write and how you want to get that message to the group.
Once you know your audience, how do you reach them?
First, it’s important to know that most employees are busy, but connected digitally. Mobile is huge — 77 percent of Americans use a smart phone. 92 percent of American adults under age 34 use a smart phone. And our attention spans are getting shorter. The average is about 8 seconds. That’s a very limited time to grab someone’s attention with your message.
The truth is you do need to start reaching your folks over those personal smart devices in their pockets. Even for a small team, creating methods to connect and share information can be easy if you get creative. This could be on existing social media platforms or through proprietary apps and websites.
Be sure to keep your messages tight. Think about creating information in bite size and digestible chunks. Think “snackable.” Try to stick to just three things you want employees to know.
What other tips and tricks do you recommend?
Use video. Study after study show thats audiences really do prefer to get information in video form. We make about 500-700 videos a year for all sizes of organizations. There is nothing that beats professional video.
- Pay attention to diversity. The U.S. workforce is more diverse than ever. More generations are in the workforce. More ethnicities and cultures are represented. The changes in our world through the last 100 years has created much more distinctive life experiences across generations.
Show appreciation. We like to help our teams find pleasure in serving customers. Sure, there is a lot to know, but if you think of your employee as one of your key customers it will help you keep the mindset. Finding structural ways to create a culture where appreciation is felt can go a long way to keep employees engaged at work.
What if your employees are just not very engaged to begin with?
I think these three tips can really help. First, instead of just giving rules, explain rationale. People want a peek behind the curtain to understand what’s really going on. Second, ask your employees for their thoughts and really listen. Third, use consistent channels so employees know where to go for critical information.
Any final thoughts?
At the end of the day, understanding your audience, your employees, is about empathy. We often will create a persona or profile as we work. If you are familiar with customer centricity, then you are familiar with this approach. You don’t think about ALL the employees as one, but pull out one individual and make sure tactics work for that person.
In my work, I will often imagine a person that I am communicating to. This helps me evaluate my messages. Think of classifications of the types of employees that you are talking to. Think about what is on his/her mind? What does that person need to know about the information to get their specific type of job done? What do they need to be successful?
Talley leads the Business Strategy Team at Rhudy & Co. where she focuses on strategic planning, change management, crisis communications, organizational culture and community relations. Managing a client list made up of Fortune 500s and top-tier nonprofits, Talley has an entrepreneur’s heart and seeks out ways to delight clients and their stakeholders every day.